A blog about the Master Programme in Digital Humanities at Uppsala University

Category: Okategoriserade (Page 3 of 4)

All you need to know as a digital humanities student…almost

Today there was a workshop concerning the practical arrangement of teaching at the DH master programme. Most of the lecturers for the programme attended, and we shared a both informative and nice afternoon, discussing how to provide the best basis of education for both students and lecturers.

Although most of the information communicated during the workshop primarily is important for teachers, it can also be good to be updated on this as a student as it may help to ease your planning around you studies if you know how things like this work.

So, here goes some of the take-aways that I want to share with you:

  • A preliminary schedule is published prior to five weeks before the course starts. In that way, students can plan social life and activities around their studies, but be aware that changes can come through up till one week before the course starts. You find the schedule at the department web site http://www.abm.uu.se/education/student/schedule/
  • Can’t wait for the course literature? Relax, we have all been there… 😉  Literature lists for the courses will be published prior to five weeks before the course starts. This mean there will be plenty of time for students to find the right literature and also for the book stores to order the titles we put on the literature lists. Most courses of the programme is 7.5 credits, meaning around 1,000 – 1,500 pages for each course. To save your self time and effort, it might be worth purchasing books that are used through several courses (if the library does not offer it as an e-book).
  • For every course, there is a study guide (only a document I’m afraid, even though it actually may work as your own” study-guardian angel”) to inform students about the knowledge, skills and abilities that are expected of students after they have completed the course. Here you can usually also find information about mandatory parts of the course and examinations. The study guide is published on the learning platform Student Portal.

A more thorough introduction of everything one needs to know as a student at the Department of ALM will of course be presented during the first days of the programme. Until then, you can read up more about rights and working conditions for students on the web.


Call for papers for Tidskrift för ABM

The Department of ALM are now inviting contributions to the department journal Tidskrift för ABM (Journal for ALM). We are looking for scholarly articles as well as travelogues, shorter notations and reviews of works of relevance to ALM, information science or digital humanities.  Both English and Swedish are accepted languages. Publication date will be in December 2019.

The journal work is a good opportunity for students (both at the master and doctoral level) to become more experienced with the publication process and the editing committee offers support to those writers that need it during the whole editing process.

You can check out previous numbers of the journal and find more instructions at the journal website. If you have questions, send an email to my colleague Amalia who is the chief editor.

Thank you for your interest in the DH-programme!

The working group for the digital humanities master program just finished another meeting. For the first time, we could see the total amount of applications and we are happy to say that totally over 150 people (both from Sweden and from abroad) have applied!  For being the first time for this master programme, we are very flattered with the numbers and want to thank everyone of you for your interest in the programme. Except for being from different places geographically, applicants also seem to vary quite a bit regarding earlier academic background. We hope that this will give us a dynamic and interesting group of students to work with when the autumn semester of 2019 kicks off!

Except for this news, the working group also discussed course synergies and the possibilities to engage prominent persons in the digital humanities-field as guest lecturers, even though they might not work at Uppsala University at the moment. More info about the course content and teachers will come….

Have a nice weekend!


Studying at the Department of ALM. Part 2: Social life

This is the second part of an interview I did with John, one of our students at the Master Programme in ALM (Archives, Library and Museum Studies). The first part of the interview you can find here.

Besides talking about what the Department of ALM can offer, John and me also talked about life beyond studies. As a student it is important to have a good work-life balance, at the same time as there can be soooo much that one have/want to do and be engaged in. John explains that life of a master student can be summarized as great freedom with great responsibility. “There are maybe three to five scheduled lectures or seminars a week, although it differs depending on different courses in the programme. One has to use the time in a responsible way, setting your own time plan.” John seems to manage that without problems, and he tells me: “I use to sit in the campus library (Karin Boye-biblioteket), where I can feel like I’m in a bubble of my own. I know that there is going to be quiet and easy to focus. But I also like to try out different study environments. Sometimes I sit at campus, other times I go to the main library building, or read in a café.”

I ask him what he thinks about the student services that are offered by the university, such as the student gym Campus 1477, study assistance services or all the different courses, workshops and lectures outside academic studies. Taking a sip of water, John answers that he knows about them but have not tried out so much of this himself. “In exception for the courses in information seeking offered by the library. I have attended that course several times, actually, it’s very useful and you learn how to best use the library resources”

We talk some more about campus Engelska parken. This is the site for the Department of ALM and also where most of our teaching takes place. “Compared to other campus of Uppsala University, Engelska parken is more intriguing and interesting. I especially like Physicum, the building where the old Department of Physics used to be, but the university main hall as well. Both are old but beautiful buildings, on the outside as well as on the inside.” The buildings John refers to are built in the 17thand 19thcentury and I ask him how he believes those historic milieus contributes to his studies. “Well, I’m not sure that they effect my studies… But they make me feel…part of something greater, in a way. It feels…authentic. The long history of the university is materialized through those buildings and their surrounding.”

However, old architecture cannot make up for good friends (even if you are found of history) and I ask about social life and activities. John told me earlier that he is from Visby, but came to Uppsala when he was 19 and I wonder how he managed to adjust to a new city, far from family and old friends. He smiles when he explains that “…there is so much to do on the side of your studies while being a student! If you are new in the city, there is easy to meet new people that are in the same situation as yourself, and you can quickly find new friends and nice people to hang out with.” He continues; “I would really recommend to engage in one of the thirteen student nations (social clubs for students with their own estates, businesses, activities, scholarships, and housing opportunities). You can get working experience and learn new skills, beside your academic studies.”

Another thing that John recommends for new students is to join the student association that is connected to your programme of study. For example, at the department, we have Studierådet för ABM, which offers students a way to influence their education but also to arrange social activities like quiz nights. “When I was a student in history we had our own association which I was, and still am, very engaged in. We arranged a welcome party for new students and lots of other fun stuff. We also invited guest lecturers of our own choice, in co-operation with the department.”

Overall, I got the impression that John is content, both with his studies at the Department of ALM and with the university. Maybe a bit too content? I ask him if there is anything he is critical about or thinks should be changed. He gives it some thought, but no, nothing in particular, he says. I just nod, hoping it is an honest answer and that he is not only being polite. At the department, me and my colleagues all try to give our students the best opportunities possible, and hopefully we succeed, I think to myself.

“Be open to new perspectives! For me, the programme was not as I expected, as a matter of fact, it is better!

I finish the interview by asking John about his best advice for the new students of the Master Programme in Digital Humanities. “Be open to new perspectives! For me, the programme was not as I expected, as a matter of fact, it is better! One reason are the courses in programming and databases. Some people don’t appreciate them, they do not perceive it as something that they chose to study or see the relevance of it, but for me they gave new perspectives on information and museum studies.”

The power of coffee breaks

Going to a conference or meeting means a lot of things. Listening to presentations, learning new stuff, meeting people, seeing new places, smalltalk…. I can tick all of these things off from from my list of activities this week, thanks to the LAMC3-workshop in Copenhagen.

LAMC3 stands for Libraries, Archives, Museums: Changes, Challenges and Collaboration and is a network project that brings together Nordic research in the LAM-field. Except seminars and lectures, the participants got guided tours of key cultural institutions in Copenhagen. Both the Royal Library and The City Archive were natural places to visit but also newer and perhaps more experimental institutions invited us, like Enigma – Museum of Post, Tele and Communication.

However, one of the best take aways from the workshop-days is meeting new PhDs and researchers but also learning to know the ones I already knew even better. It is easy to underestimate the power of coffee breaks, but for the purpose of strengthening bonds to colleagues, they are invaluable. Chatting over a cup of coffee is not only nice and social fun, but also important to be able to do better collaborations in the academic community; writing papers together or co-arranging seminars or courses for students.

At the Department of ALM, we try to encourage our students to travel to conferences, workshops and meeting so that they also can get important academic- or work connections for their future career. Every semester a number of students get grants from the department for going away. We have sent students to UK, Estonia, Argentina, Finland, Germany…. Many of them have shared their experiences in the department journal, Tidskrift för ABM. For non-swedish speakers, I am sorry to say that most of the travelogues are in Swedish.

If you are going to study at the Department of ALM (or maybe do that already), I really recommend you to use the opportunity to get your research trip funded by the department. The application does not need to be all that complicated and the approvement rate is fairly high. 

Studying at the Department of ALM. Part 1. Studies and Teaching

So, this week I met with John Högström, 24 years old. He is one of our masterstudents at the Master Programme of ALM (Archive, Library and Museum studies). Since there are no students yet that can share their experiences of studying the master in digital humanities until next semester, I thought the next best thing was to hear out a student at our existing programme  about the experience of being a student at the Department of ALM.

John and me meet up for the interview in the local cantina to have a conversation over some vegan pasta and blue cheese risotto. This is the place on campus where students go for lunch, for a coffee break or to just hang out or work on some study project.

John, at campus Engelska Parken

Within the ALM-domain, John is specializing in museum and heritage studies. Being on the second year of the two-year programme, he is busy writing his master’s thesis and simultaneously wrapping up a course in theories and methods for the ALM-field.

I start the interview by asking about his study background. Before entering master studies, John tells that he mixed studies in history and ethnology, among other subjects. “I came to the ALM-department a bit by chance. I actually started with master studies in history of science and ideas. But two weeks in, I realized I wanted something else and decided to quit. […] I applied for studies in museum and cultural heritage instead, and got accepted! With the class already two weeks far, it was a bit of a struggle at first but I managed to catch up pretty quickly.”

So, what is his ideas about the programme, I wonder. In comparison with his earlier student experiences, is there something special about ALM? “Well, I like the different variations of exam forms. The variety of having home exams, seminars, papers, group work….I like it. Another thing that is new to me but which makes the programme more exciting are that the department also has distant students [attending the Library- and Information Science track of the ALM Master Programme] and that some lectures are recorded.”

In addition to lectures and seminars, the programme offer other complements. “We also have had quite many field trips; visiting places like the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, or the museum storage of Upplandsmuseet (the Uppland county museum, my note) gives a good opportunity to talk to professionals in the field and grounded perspectives of the meaning of your studies. […] The five weeks of internship was one of my favorite parts of my museum studies. I spent them on the Nordic Museum, at the Department for Digital Interaction. It was so much to learn and I developed a lot. Much focus was on effective ways to spread research digitally and how to work with digital information in the organisation”

But John is clear with that he does not have to go outside of the classroom to get a wider perspective on things. “To have external lecturers are always exciting. It is important to get input from different people, in addition to the lecturers from the ALM-department.”

Compared to John’s previous experiences, he thinks the student base at the Master Programme of ALM is more mixed. “At the bachelor’s programme in history, most of the people were similar in age and interest. Here, there is definitely more variation. The mix of experiences, ages and academic background definitely makes the seminar discussions more dynamic and rich of different perspectives.”

This interview continues in part 2: Social Life.

Summer school in DH in Oxford

Some years in a row, Riksbankens jubileumsfond have offered scholarships for studying digital humanities in Oxford. Being granted scholarship means that the registration fee, lodgings and trip to Oxford will all be paid for. This is a generous scholarship and a great possibility to catch up with the latest in digital humanities. Many of my colleagues have already taken the course, and based on their favorable verdict of it, it seems well worth the time.

If you are qualified to take the course, I strongly recommend you to apply! Deadline for applications is March 11th. You find everything you need to know here: https://www.rj.se/Utlysningar/Aktuella-utlysningar/sommarskola-i-digital-humaniora-oxford/

Unfortunately, you have to be a PhD student or have a doctoral degree to be eligible for this, so sorry to my readers that are in other places of their academic careers right now. Since this opportunity have returned for several years now, one can perhaps hope for another chance next year….


Anna Orrghen: Understanding the world through art

Hello! I am an art historian and one of the teachers at the Master’s Programme in Digital Humanities. Most of my research concerns digital art. I believe that by studying art you could learn a lot about the society in which the art has been created. In my research I therefore use digital art as a point of departure for understanding more complex questions.

Given my interdisciplinary background at the intersection of art history and media studies I have approached digital art from several perspectives. For instance, by analysing the challenges digital art faces in relation to preservation and archiving, I believe that it is possible to gain crucial insights concerning not only digital art, but also related to digital cultural heritage on a more overall level.

Right now I am particularly interested in the relation between the digital and the non digital. For instance: what is the difference between looking at an art work through a data base and at a museum? Although it might sound like a rather basic question it is a question that shed light upon several aspects of digital humanities: knowledge production, economy, preservation, digitization, visualization, and, not at least, technological visions, to name but a few. Basic questions like this could serve as a starting point for a critical examination of the impact of digitization in society.

Anna Orrghen, Lecturer at the Department of Art History


“Tidsdokumentet” by Chalmers Tekniska Högskola was a debated piece of public art which controversial history offers many perspectives on the societal mechanisms and climate in Gothenburg, the city where it was place. Studying artworks like this, or the digital manifestations of them, can add to our understanding of society. Photo: Per Johansson (2005) CC BY-SA 3.0



How museum objects enter new orbits

Today the Department of ALM got visited by Bodil Axelsson, associate professor at Linköping University at the Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture. She presented her ongoing research project In Orbit: Distributed Curatorial Agency When Museum Objects and Knowledge Go Online. The data she presented illustrated what happens when images of museum objects are published and pinned on Pinterest and how that throw those objects into a process of re-contextualisation. Her study focus on images of viking jewelry, an object category that is widely spread outside the museum pinning boards on Pinterest where they were originally published.

Her research is one example of how new digital practices (like the use of Pinterest and other social media) are forcing researchers in information science, cultural heritage studies or other related domains to study the effects of the digital era on institutional collections.

Pinterest is a social media platform that allows the user to publish images and image metadata of their choice. Users can also “pin” images to create their own collections of material relevant only for them, much in likeness with the old school scrap book. As opposed to scrap books, the pinning activity enables images to spread and act as nodes in different networks.  Collections of pinned images are also used to make recommendations of new images to pin. It is all machined by a complicated and opaque algorithm that tries to learn the interests of the platform users to make useful recommendations.


Capturing the sweetest parts of CAPTURE

To grow and to be able to reach those levels we did not think was possible, every one of us need role models. They help us raise our ambitions and show us what is possible to achieve. It goes for all parts of life, but is perhaps especially relevant when you are a student or a researcher.

That is one of the reasons why we like to give some extra attention to researchers at the Department of ALM when they are granted funding for new projects or in other ways show us what is possible.

Earlier this week, Isto Huvila (professor at the Department of ALM) presented his coming research project CAPTURE. A catchy name to help you remember the full title; CApturing Paradata for documenTing data creation and Use for the REsearch of the future. It addresses the problem of how to know what information about the making and earlier use of research data that is important to preserve in order to make this data usable in the future. Although an important issue for any research field, scholars in the digital humanities are often using digital methods that creates data that can be especially difficult to reuse because of non-compatible formats or badly designed algorithms.

I personally cannot stop myself from imagining how a better solution of “conserving” research data could help save resources that can be used more effectively. Research data, even in its “raw” state before it has undergone any polishing or analysis, is often the result of much effort and invested money. That is why it is so important to try to find solutions on how data can be recycled or at least used in some way, also beyond its direct purpose. I guess that is one of the reasons why the European Research Council valued the project and decided to fund it. When it starts, it will be one of the biggest research projects at the Department of ALM, and we are all excited to follow its progress. Experiences and results from the project are in time also going to make its way into the education given to our programme students, offering them fresh insights into on-going state-of-the-art research.

After the presentation of CAPTURE it was time for the most important thing; the celebration cake! As some of you might remember from earlier blog entries, I have a weakness for using cakes as metaphors; in this case, when reflecting on how projects like this offer sweet experiences for the whole department, including researchers as well as students.

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